Developing the Leader within You
If there’s one thing that I feel pretty convicted on about leadership is that the better leader you become, the bigger problems you must solve.
It’s just solving one problem right after another one.
And not just me, but the organizations that we look at, the leaders that we have studied when we coached them one-on-one through our various coaching programs, and companies that we have profiled.
We find this is true.
One of the things that have taught me a lot about leadership, especially in recent years, is parenting.
What an arena for practicing leadership!
About a year ago, AJ and I were with our two boys. At this time, our oldest was about three and our youngest was one. Her family lives near Chattanooga, Tennessee but we live in Nashville.
We drove to the Chattanooga area to do our Christmas celebration and we have a drive about two and a half hours back to get back to Nashville.
Our kids were absolute angels in the car this entire car ride.
And if you’ve ever driven kids around, you know that it can be a hit or miss!
Our kids were just angels in the car and we’re amazed that they’re doing pretty good so we decided to stop and get a coffee on the way home.
We stopped at the Starbucks and we’re sitting there, the four of us, and we’re just like this happy, happy family, loving the holidays.
And our kids are being perfect, and mommy and daddy are all happy. Two girls who were sitting next to us gushed on how our kids were so cute and that we were the cutest little family. We’re just bragging about our kids are just dolls during this whole car ride and that they were so sweet.
Right about that time, my oldest three-year-old tells me that he needs to potty.
I took him into the potty while AJ is showing off our baby, our one-year-old, bragging basically about how perfect our kid is. She’s holding him up and she starts to feel something warm on her leg.
She’s calling me on the phone. I hit ignore. She calls again and I hit ignore. I did this several times as she tries to call me.
Finally, I answered her and said, “Babe, what? I’m dealing with something.”
And she talks to me in this very special voice that only mothers have.
She says, “I need you right now.”
Some of you, for those of you that are moms, might have this voice, too and you use it from time to time.
I said, “Babe, I can’t help you right now. I am dealing with a code brown as my oldest was having a situation.
She said, “Get out here immediately!”
I come out, carrying our naked toddler out of the bathroom in Starbucks. She is holding up our infant and she has a code brown all down the side of her leg.
I said, “Oh my gosh, this is horrible!” I grabbed the baby.
As soon as I grabbed the baby, he spits up projectile all over her.
And now she is covered in baby bile, and we all go rushing into the bathroom.
We’re all in the bathroom and I’m trying to deal with the baby situation. She is trying to wash herself off.
And what happens next is she forgets that our toddler is right behind her. She turns to dry herself off and accidentally hits our three-year-old into her steaming hot latte. As she catches the latte, it accidentally pours on him.
He’s screaming and as he’s screaming, AJ hits into the hand dryer, which is similar to these Dyson airblades.
And our three-year-old face is underneath this hand dryer which is so loud and blowing on his face. His cheeks are flapping in the air like he’s skydiving or something.
He’s screaming from the burns; she’s screaming because she hit her back on the Dyson.
The people outside of this Starbucks bathroom, all they know is that there was a naked toddler, a mom with do-do all over her. Kids are screaming in the bathroom and now there is hot brown liquid leaking out from underneath the door.
I’m trying to help her and they’re screaming and I’m screaming.
As I’m trying to help her, I turned around and our baby is peeing onto his face.
And this is, I think, what it looks like in so many ways to be a leader, right?
This is so real life.
This is what I think leadership looks like.
If somebody wants to know what does it mean to be a leader? It means challenging circumstances.
People think that leadership is titles, stature, respect, money, etc.
That’s not what real leadership is all about.
Real leadership is about challenging circumstances, and the influential leader matures to a point where they have a big realization that most people never have.
And that is where they become grateful for challenging circumstances because they know that challenging circumstances cultivate championship character.
This is the evolution of the maturity of a leader.
They are thankful for challenging circumstances because they know that it is those circumstances that develop our character.
The reason that this matters is because as a leader, your influence will never grow wider than your character runs deep.
Our ability to grow our organization, to grow our impact and our influence, all depends on our ability to have deeper strength or depth of character.
Character is not shaped in the moments that things are easy. The character is shaped in the times that things are difficult, and it is something that never stops because as you become stronger, your leadership star rises and that brings more challenges.
And then you figure out a way to get through those. You grow to the next level, which will bring more challenges all the way to the point where somebody becomes “Bill Gates” and they’re solving the greatest problems that face humanity.
This is the kind of journey that we are on.
And character is the vehicle.
As our character gets stronger, our leadership gets stronger.